Mar 30, 2012    #045
Contact: John Martellaro

Real-time data analytics promise to boost student learning at UMKC

Redesign of introductory algebra course a model for professors to use technology to identify learning gaps

The University of Missouri-Kansas City is using 21st century technology to improve the teaching and learning of algebra, a mathematical discipline with roots in ancient Greece.

In the redesigned course, students solve problems on computers and answer questions via hand-held networked devices. Instructors receive real-time data analytics reports that identify specific problem areas for students in the class. This allows the instructor to pinpoint the concepts that generate the most incorrect answers. The instructor can then focus more class time on that specific area.

A pilot rollout of the redesigned course is underway during this spring semester in one of four sections of Math 110, a three-credit algebra course. The other three sections are using the existing lecture model. The plan calls for full implementation of the redesigned course for the fall 2012 semester.

The redesigned course is based on a system developed by the nonprofit National Center for Academic Transformation and first deployed at Virginia Tech 10 years ago. The method has been used in a variety of collegiate settings since that time, with consistent results: reduced D and F grades and withdrawals, and measurable increases in learning outcomes. The computer-based standardization of course content also reduces "course drift," providing more consistent content across all sections and more consistent student learning regardless of the section of the course.

The genesis for the course redesign is a statewide effort, supported by Governor Nixon, to improve student success in entry level mathematics courses and increase efficiencies by redesigning courses at all 13 state-supported colleges and universities in Missouri. The redesign effort at UMKC was led by Professor Jie Chen, chair of the mathematics department; mathematics faculty members Rebecca Roberts and Ian Besse; and Deputy Provost Cindy Pemberton.

The pre-existing algebra course model consists of three 50-minute lecture meetings per week, taught mostly by graduate assistants or adjunct professors. The redesigned course consists of two 75-minute computer learning sessions and one interactive class meeting, a highly modified version of a lecture class that leverages technology to make classwork more relevant to student needs.

Full-time professors conduct the class meetings, providing direct access for undergraduate students to an expert in the field. The computer learning sessions are proctored by undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants, whose primary responsibility is to monitor student progress and intervene when necessary. Under the redesigned structure, teaching assistants provide immediate, on-demand student learning assistance, which is not available in the current course structure.

According to the course redesign team, the new format also enhances future employment opportunities for teaching assistants because they gain experience as "early adopters" of new technology and teaching techniques.

Other advantages of the redesigned course include:

  • Savings allow resources to be redirected
  • Better learning outcomes mean fewer students retaking the course, freeing up more resources
  • Successful completion of college-level math is a strong predictor of successful degree completion
  • Student costs for books and materials are cut almost in half, from $200 to $110

More information about the redesigned Math 110 can also be found at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics website.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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